The Journal at 50

To publish The Journal in its 50th year is to honor names that we do not know. Even with the most rigorous filing system, any archive will have holes — a volunteer reader, an editor, even a contributor in a missing issue. To move forward is an act of faith, of gratitude for our predecessors, known and unknown, who have allowed us to take on the mantle. Against the gaps and ghosts and dusty boxes of historical issues, 47.1 is a celebration of The Journal’s history and its future. Issue 47.1 contains previous contributors and emerging voices; translated fiction and collaborative poetry; art from Canada, Ghana, Ireland, Germany, and our home in Columbus, Ohio. Although The Journal’s aesthetic vision may look different than it did 50 years ago, its basic principle — of placing different voices in relation and experiencing the way they refract and transform — remains the same.

Indeed, transformation is a major theme across the pieces in this issue. Boys in Tina Zhu’s moon colony are transformed into swans and fly back to an Earth transformed by climate disaster. Andie Sheridan’s speaker takes T and makes “history every time I notice new leg hair.” The pranksters in Robert Wood Lynn’s poem “wake up with our parts exchanged.” These pieces insist on the inevitability of touch, its pleasures and violences, and ultimately, the radical transformations it makes possible. We are all constituted by messy relations. As Victoria Chang reminds us, “All this time, I thought we were the object and the source. But we are neither, just of the living.”

Entering its 51st year, The Journal aims to be of the world. Relationships not only make the curation, editing, and publication of The Journal possible and ferry new art into the world; art itself forges new relationships. What does it mean for disparate writers to come into contact on neighboring pages of The Journal? And how does this contact extend beyond the pages of the issue, into our neighborhoods and classrooms, in virtual spaces and bookstores? This summer, at the inaugural Columbus Book Festival, which brought together 30,000 writers, publishers, and book lovers for a weekend of literary play and community making, The Journal met future contributors and readers eager to sink their teeth into new work. Whether at book festivals, in the shelves of beloved local bookstores, or at readings and launch parties, art can facilitate new relationships, forge new connections that were not there before.

There are, of course, the names we do know, without whom this issue would not exist: William Allen, who founded The Journal in 1973, and David Citino, who served as editor from 1985 to 1990. Kathy Fagan and Michelle Herman, who have edited and advised The Journal for years and overseen many of its transformations. Marcus Jackson, the Director of Creative Writing at The Ohio State University and a tireless advocate for literature and art. And the many editors, readers, and contributors who volunteered their time to bring this issue into the world, to your hands. As Managing Editor, I have loved collaborating with these brilliant folks, and I am so grateful to have been a brief part of The Journal.

Virgin and Child, with a Goldfinch, 1490

This is the way they made me
permanent, come to hurt my eyes
again, to unwrap me for myself,
                                    with light
in the shadow of an underwing.

Dear one, our story hit a snag.
Such slender thread
                                    as binds us
one to the other is bound
to catch on meaning’s edge.

It is what we have in common,
you and I, our planet, its four
corners filled
                                    with gifts
and ruins, with peculiar
occasions in sulfurous light

where there is no thought
beyond the odor of paint.
Though my hands beg let go,
                                    let loose,
the rasp of brush has fixed me
to the star, has wed me

to a rift in the air, removed
as fuses from a spark of the real
galaxy where angels visit,
then dwindle to wicks.

The goldfinch visits us too.
Its colors bleed as dreams
bleed through the deep
                                    dark hand
of an Old Master working

with bent wrist
                                    to snare us,
until I am sure that we will last
forever, until the angels
take their halos and go home.

Summer Reading: Fiction Editor Kate Norris

As much as I love to read, reading as a writer is a fraught experience. I rarely read purely for pleasure anymore, but instead am always analyzing what I’m reading, trying to sort out what works and how, what doesn’t and why, and which techniques I should be attempting in my own writing.

Recently, a young writer was talking about how reading often leads to a crisis of confidence for her, and I reassured her (at least, I hope this is reassuring…) that this feeling never goes away. If anything, it just gets worse over time for me, because the more I learn the more I know just how much better than me some other writers are.

Oh how I miss the confidence of dumb teen me!

All I can do is work through this insecurity, because I can’t turn it off. Writing ends up being something akin to faith, if only in myself (The only kind I have. See you in hell?) and my own ability to make whatever I’m working on good in the end. Reading good books is the ultimate test of that faith.

So here are two books I’ve read recently that made me feel extremely insecure—the highest compliment I can offer.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters

Jess Walters does an amazing job capturing not just his female characters, but particularly how his female characters perceive the men in their lives. Among the large cast of characters there are two selfish, destructive man-children—Shane Wheeler and Pat Bender—that are at various times perfectly skewered by women in their lives. But Walters doesn’t treat any of his characters with disdain, even when he’s portraying them at their most ridiculous. Every character gets their due, and although the end is perhaps sentimental, no one gets more redemption than they’ve earned.

Beautiful Ruins reminded me a bit of A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Although Beautiful Ruins isn’t billed as a novel in stories, it functions in much the same way, with each chapter moving between different reoccurring characters and times. Overall, Beautiful Ruins moves more linearly within its separate time lines, and in the end things are brought together tidily, but many of the chapters work as independent stories. Chapter 4, “The Smile of Heaven,” for instance, reads like a complete short story, and a fantastic one at that.

What I find most intimidating about this novel is its scope: it spans decades, continents, and the perspective of several characters. It contains fragments of a play, a novel, and a character’s autobiography. Yet although the novel is expansive, it is also intimate. Beautiful Ruins is often described as a funny book, and it is, but it isn’t frivolous, and even the more overblown characters like Michael Deane don’t read as caricatures.

Beautiful Ruins is being made into a film (Of course it is! How could a book that deals partially with the scandal that occurred on the set of Cleopatra not be optioned?) and I’m very curious to see how on earth they’ll be able to adapt this sprawling story for the screen.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare Me is narrated by sixteen year old Addie Hanlon, varsity cheerleader and “lieutenant” to her best friend Beth Cassidy’s squad captain. Although they’re best friends, their relationship is uneasy, and the fissures between them become cracks under the regime of a new, strict cheer coach.

A book that examines the intense, fraught relationships between teen girls? Yes, please! There is nothing I love reading about more. And Abbott’s characters, both teenage and otherwise, are rich, complex, and wholly believable—perhaps the most important criteria for me.

But in Dare Me, the element I found most intimidating was also the one thing I really disliked about the book: the voicey, writerly language. I typically prefer language that doesn’t call undue attention to itself (I would rather pay attention to character and story than how pretty a sentence is.) even in third person, where any florid writing can more easily be attributed to the author than their point-of-view character, but Dare Me is written in first person so Abbott’s language feels particularly egregious. A quick perusal of some Goodreads reviews shows that I’m not the only one who was frustrated by the language, which was not only unbelievable coming from a teenage girl, but also imprecise at times.

But dammit, sometimes the language is just so cool. When Addie describes a light “coning halogen”, part of me is like ‘yeah right, what teenage girl talks like that’, but another part is frustrated because I know I couldn’t write like that even if I tried. It also feels somehow small-minded to judge Dare Me based on the yardstick of realism when it’s neo-noir. The super stylized and completely unrealistic dialogue of a movie like Brick, which is also high school noir, doesn’t bother me at all, so why should it bother me here? Because I’m fickle and unfair I suppose.

Dare Me is also being made into a movie and I think it could make a great one, especially if the rumor that Natalie Portman will play the cheer coach is true.

If you’re reading this hoping to gain some insight into my editorial tastes, here’s the TL; DR version: send me some sprawling mean girl noir minus any noir style, set on a movie set.

Just kidding!

Kind of.

Summer Reading: Associate Nonfiction Editor Nina Yun

As I find myself back in a life of a student, the first day of school feels  more and more like New Year’s Day to me than January 1st or Lunar New Year ever did, so summer naturally becomes the opportune time to rush the reading resolutions made the year before, a task equally weighted by the fear that my twenties will be a montage of me carrying a stack of unread books on top of my laptop, tellingly warm and buzzing, from place to place, and weighted by the desire to start another school year shiny and bright. Here are my fire sale books, the books I failed to read last year and need to read before the “new year”:

The Answer to the Riddle is Me by David MacLean

Just by the crude stats, I should really hate this book: This is a memoir about a white man who loses himself in India, and about the steps he has to take in order to find himself, which he finds ponderous. There is a foreign locale. There is pensive cigarette smoking. There is scotch drinking.  But the above description is a disservice to David MacLean’s writing and to the terrifying yet extraordinary medical circumstance of how he completely lost his memory while at a train station in Hyderabad, India. While I envy how intuitive the organization of the book is [shakes fist at the appropriate and keen sense of white space], what struck me most in this memoir is how it walks very near the territory of memoir strategies that are most visible and often derided:  the navel gazing, the obsession of minutiae and its use as a bedrock to expand into links to the general and universal world, the easy hatred of self to secure sympathy from readers, and the caricatures of real people we abuse to run parallel and counter to ourselves. The Answer to the Riddle is Me reminds me it’s not these patterns that are bad—that sentimentality is not always a trap but sometimes an honest impulse—just that these are usually so badly and uncritically written. These questions of self and identity and how we process them are central to the work of memoir and should not be easily elided or a default. It’s hard work, but MacLean makes it funny and thrilling.

Our Andromeda by Brenda Shaughnessy

I feel like I should know better than to be nervous while reading poetry, but … well, line breaks! Meter! Rhyme? In the very few poetry workshops I’ve taken, I flail superficial comments like “Oh the language is beautiful” and “Wow, the imagery” until I sit, sputtered out and ashamed. Brenda Shaughnessy’s Our Andromeda has a speaker who makes it a point to make me feel a little nervous and ashamed. She’s dynamite with two lit wicks, and she wants me to watch. She scrutinizes herself as an artist and as a mother while wish-building an alternate, better world for herself and her son while cutting her fantasy with the ever-present awareness that she knows she is wishing. She’s above any comfort I can give her, and not just because she’s smarter and more sly, but because she seems so right about everything.  It’s been a while since I’ve read something that implicates me as a reader, as audience, but there’s nothing cold about Shaughnessy—as bald and uncomfortable as they can be, there’s something so warm in the admittances she gives. For me, this is a collection of poems to buy and to keep close.



Summer Reading: Assistant Managing Editor Angela So

From genetic manipulation to a restriction on women’s rights, the issues that populate dystopian novels speak to my deepest fears: a look into a possible future where humanity morphs into new. So that’s what I did this summer. I read seven dystopian novels in the span of two months.

My Dystopian Novel Summer Reading List

A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
1984 by George Orwell
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

My favorite? The Road.

Coming at the end of my reading list, McCarthy took a familiar genre and broke many rules—no explanation for the cause of this post-apocalyptic world, no chapters, no traditional three act structure—but all for the stake of the novel. The nameless father and son wander a harsh and yet awe-inspiring world full of dangers lurking on the periphery. In a lawless, broken world, the form added to the emotional and physical terrain of the novel. Full of surprise, menace, and tenderness, The Road changes the rules with a consciousness that adds to a popular genre.

And there’s no better way to cleanse the dystopian palette than to watch the sci-fi TV show, Orphan Black. The show is about cloning and doesn’t pull any punches with plot. A less confident show would have teased the audience with red herrings, but Orphan Black understands that drama and tension comes from revealing secrets, not withholding information. Anchored by a fearless performance by Titiana Maslany, who performs every single clone herself and brings life to a variety of characters, this show doesn’t paint characters as villains and heroes. Each is flawed. Each has vulnerability. Each has a motive. With a strong lead and a charismatic supporting case, the show also allows us to have an explicit discussion about the way others claim the bodies of women. Dark, funny, and suspenseful, it’s a show worthy of binge watching.


Summer Reading: Nonfiction Editor Megan Kerns

I Know What I Did Last Summer

It’s been a vampire summer–cool, clammy, eternal, with many mornings spent hissing at the sunrise as I worked at a barista job that slowly sucked the life out of me.

But all that’s behind me now. Or is it…?

No, it really is, because I quit my job just a few days after this blogpost was due.  (What is that strange howling in the distance?  It could be something supernatural, but it’s probably Online Editor Lauren Barret, waiting for my late submission.)  There was the familiar routine that accompanies a ritual staking/quitting: (metaphorical) sprays of blood and curling smoke, howls of rage, flailing, a high-speed escape from vampire’s lair/high-end grocery store, etc. Mental note: holy water/garlic breath ineffective in customer service situations.

I should’ve seen this coming, should’ve sharpened some damn stakes weeks ago.  After all, I started the summer by tearing through Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries series (also known as the Sookie Stackhouse novels), beginning with the bubblegum fun of Dead Until Dark, and thenLiving Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, and my personal favorite, Dead to the World. Though there are thirteen (!) books in the series, I learned to pace myself–because I would devour each book in about 24 hours, terrible job and sleep be damned.  Reading the Sookie Stackhouse books was just pure fun, even when I rolled my eyes at some of Harris’s choices (weretigers with stupid dialogue, faery godmothers, Bill Compton’s sheer boringness, etc).

I forgave all those irritations, because the sex scenes were great.  Eric n Sookie 4-Ever.

My obsession with the Sookie Stackhouse novels bled naturally into a curiosity about True Blood, and I re-learned hard lessons about how different TV adaptations are.  Though I think Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyers have equally atrocious Southern accents/are terrible actors, I am totally charmed by/smitten with Alexander Skarsgård‘s Eric Northman (look, Northman was my fave character in the books, and I’m just married, not dead and the delightful Nelsan Ellis and Rutina Wesley as cousins Lafayette and Tara.

I read stacks of non-supernatural nonfiction (Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, fascinating interviews/essays in The Believer, but let’s refocus on what’s really important here, which is the delusion of theme.

I loved Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive, set in the  decaying urban wilderness of Detroit.  Tilda Swinton is naturally creepy, the soundtrack is beautiful (haunting? eerie?), and the plot itself defied tired vamp narratives.

listened to Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man,” Jill Andrews’ “The Mirror,” and Gillian Welch’s “The Way it Goes” on repeat (j/k, none of these songs are vampire-themed).
I also became engrossed with Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. I watched trailers for important films like the 1978 classicZoltan: Hound of Dracula, and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, which focused exclusively on kung-fu vampires.

Favorite drink: virgin Bloody Mary (Not really. Just iced coffee.)

Favorite food: All Soul’s Day cookies (Fine.  I like their pictures on the Internet).

Corey Van Landingham Signing at AWP!

We are exceptionally proud to be hosting a signing for Corey Van Landingham, the winner of the 2012 Charles B. Wheeler Prize for Poetry, at this year’s AWP. Corey will be on hand to sign copies of her first book, Antidote, published by the OSU Press.

The details:

When: March 1, 2014, from 11am to noon

Where: The Journal AWP Table (B11), Washington State Convention Center

Copies of Antidote will be sold at the signing. Hope to see you all there!

In Defense of #NaNoWriMo

I was supposed to write a post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November) during NaNoWriMo, but since apparently I’m trying to add a sub-specialization in procrastination to my MFA, that didn’t happen.

NaNoWriMo gets a lot of crap, partly because it encourages people to worry about quantity and not quality, and partly because of its cheery insistence that when you push out 50,000 words in a month, what you’re left with is a novel, when most likely you’re maybe 1/10th of the way there, not in word count, but in the work you’ll actually need to do to make those words into something anyone should be subjected to.

I found out about NaNoWriMo in late October a few years ago and decided to plunge right in. I had attempted to write novels before but had never been able to finish. I wasn’t a fast writer (and still am not), but I worked diligently and at the end of the month I had written 50,000 words of a young adult coming of age novel about a teenage girl’s year as an exchange student in India, heavily inspired by my own experience. Fifty thousand words isn’t really novel length, even for YA, and I knew the plot was incomplete. I continued to write, and after a couple months I had a complete manuscript of about 75,000 words. I spent a couple months editing and researching agents and began the querying process.

Even though the novel I wrote didn’t get me an agent and will probably never be published, I still believe that participating in NaNoWriMo remains one of the most important things I’ve done as a writer. Here are some of the most important things I learned by participating in NaNoWriMo and in the ensuing quest to get that novel published:

1) I could finish a novel.

This is huge. A lot of writers who have been writing seriously for years, even incredibly talented writers in MFA programs, sometimes have a bit of a phobia about actually attempting to write a novel. Workshops tend to focus on short stories rather than novels or novel excerpts, and while there is some overlap in the skills necessary to write a short story and a novel, in many ways, writing a novel is a whole different beast. Writing my NaNoWriMo manuscript, and even more importantly, taking the time to flesh it out and edit it in the subsequent months, proved to myself that I could write a novel.

2) Being a writer means WRITING.

Duh, right? Well, this is sadly easy to lose sight of. Sometimes writers feel like they have to wait until inspiration strikes or until conditions are perfect before they start working on something. Participating in NaNoWriMo taught me that when the process felt awful—each sentence like pulling teeth—the product wasn’t necessarily bad. And sometimes when it felt like the last thing in the world I wanted to do was write, once I actually got started, the words came easily. Basically, just like pretty much everything, nothing happens unless you get started and keep going. This is something I still lose sight of sometimes, even in an MFA program. Sometimes weeks pass without me doing any creative writing. This isn’t a great way to accomplish anything.

3) Agents are eager to find manuscripts they love.

One of the agents I queried contacted me months later, after I had given up on hearing from them. What had caught their attention wasn’t my query, but a review of one of their client’s novels that I had posted on my personal blog. They thought the review was funny and liked my voice, saw that I was currently seeking representation for a novel, checked their old e-mails and found that I had actually queried them months earlier, and asked to read the manuscript. This was not a beginning agent, hungry for clients because she had so few. This was an agent whose list includes the author of a best-selling trilogy that is being turned into a movie. So when people try to claim that agents aren’t really looking for clients or that you have to have connections to get an agent, it is one hundred percent bullshit. If an agent is open to queries, they really want to find manuscripts they can fall in love with and represent. Also, on a related note: be prepared for anything you post online to actually be READ. It’s probably a bad idea to ever write anything online that you wouldn’t be willing to say aloud to anyone’s face. In this case, I wrote something positive that was received positively, but the opposite could have easily happened.

4) Know when to throw in the towel.

Three agents read my novel. All three declined to represent me, citing similar problems with the manuscript. I could have continued to query relentlessly, affecting an it’s-not-me-it’s-you attitude, or continued to revise, but I decided that for me, for that particular novel, the right move was to set it aside. Since this novel was so heavily influenced by my own experience, I felt like revising it would prove a challenge, and because the subject matter was so personal, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the changes that would be necessary to make the novel salable. Rather than waste time trying to publish something that might never be ready, I decided to move on and write another novel.

Even though the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo never amounted to anything, I learned so much in the process that in retrospect, it was a sort of dress rehearsal for the writing of my second novel, which although it’s shelved for the moment, is the novel that allowed me to sign with my wonderful agent Laura Rennert. If you’re someone who has always wanted to write a novel, do it. You don’t have to wait for next year’s NaNoWriMo to come around, but consider trying a writing regime that focuses on producing a certain amount over a finite time frame. It’s a great way to get over performance anxiety and perfectionism. Often, for me at least, what gets in the way of starting is apprehension that I won’t be able to put the story that seems so good in my head on the page the way I envision it. But of course, the first step is to put it on the page at all.

Holiday Wishlist 2013: Poetry Editor Shelley Wong

1. Reading Darcie Dennigan’s Madame X and Ange Mlinko’s Marvelous Things Overheard. I’m ecstatic to feature both poets in The Journal’s winter issue. I also want to read Tung-Hui Hu’s Greenhouses, Lighthouses. I highly recommend Henry Leung’s sparkling interview with Hu for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop magazine The Margins ( where Hu discusses the palinode, the forbidden fruit kepel, and how it’s OK to be a poet who has a bad relationship with poetry.

2. Experiencing the visual and sonic power of Beyoncé’s new album. Really, no superlative will do. Favorite tracks: “Ghost”/“Haunted,” “***Flawless,” “No Angel,” “Yoncé/Partition,” “Blue.”

3. Anticipating the new Sherlock season. Witnessing the unpredictable drama that is the Downton Abbey Christmas special. Catching up on NBA basketball. As a SoCal native currently living in Ohio, I have divided loyalties for the Christmas game of Lakers vs. Heat. I always represent the West, and even though LeBron’s widely hated in Ohio, I still have some Ohio love for him, and it is so beautiful when Ray Allen hits the three.

4. Cruising through SoCal for the following:

  • Yoshinoya beef bowl
  • In-N-Out burger
  • Don Ruben’s super nachos with carnitas, Hawaiian Gardens
  • Fish Company clam chowder, Los Alamitos
  • Elite Restaurant dim sum, Monterey Park
  • Simone’s strawberry crueller donut, Long Beach
  • The Pacific Ocean
Holiday Wishlist 2013: Associate Fiction Editor Rebecca Turkewitz

On My Reading Wishlist this Winter Break:

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated by Ebba Segerberg. The 2008 film adaptation of this Swedish vampire novel is phenomenal, and I’ve heard that the book is even better. The novel has been on my to-read list since I first saw the movie four years ago. I’m excited to finally have the chance to get around to it and spend some time transported to the sparse, newly haunted small town of Blackeberg, Sweden.

2. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron. I first heard about this collection of cosmic horror stories when a friend showed me a wonderful article by Adrian Van Young from the Slate Book Review (which can be found here). For those unfamiliar with “cosmic horror,” Van Young defines it as “a subgenre of weird fiction that resounds with humankind’s piddling insignificance in the greater scheme of the universe.” It’s a genre developed by H. P. Lovecraft, and I am so curious to see how Barron has modernized it and made it his own. If nothing else, I think this is maybe the best-titled collection of stories that I’ve come across in a long time.

3. The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones. This novel, often described as a literary thriller, has been burning a hole on my bookshelf since August. Because I’d heard that it’s a page-turner, I was worried I’d pick it up and ignore all my grading and coursework until I had finished it (a problem I frequently have). Now that I’m on break, I am thrilled that I have some uninterrupted time to read it. Goddard’s story collection, Girl Trouble, is spectacular (I mean, really just unbelievably good), and so I’ve been dying to finally get around to her novel.

testing testing testing

And The Winner Is…

The Journal is very pleased to announce the winners of our annual contest in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for 2013.

Fiction: “She Threw Herself,” by Lia Silver.

Silver received her MFA in fiction from Washington University in Saint Louis, where she also went on to hold a residency. She lives in Athens, Ohio with her family, and her fiction has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review.

In the words of judge Claire Vaye Watkins:

“She Threw Herself” is a terribly witty, slyly melancholy story about a couple whose youthful whimsy deposits them in the foothills of Southern Ohio. The main character, Glenna, resignedly tromps through a warped pastoral that might have been conjured by Lore Segal or Lorrie Moore. But the writing is completely its own: playful descriptions, fond characterization, and a bold, self-assured structure. “She Threw Herself” is dark, charming, confident, and extraordinary.

Nonfiction: “The Story,” by Rebecca James.

James was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania and graduated from Susquehanna University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing. She is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Judge Ira Sukrungruang had the following to say about “The Story”:

I won’t say “The Story” is brave or courageous or any of the other things critics like to label nonfiction that deals with rape. I don’t think I need to. It was not the topic of this essay that had a profound effect on me. It was its expert execution. Its stunning revelations, its well crafted prose. Reading “The Story” made me feel like I was in conversation with the author and her various voices, as if she were in my ear. It’s what Phillip Lopate says is essential in the personal essay, one person’s moment made universal. This was a tough read, a lovely read, a necessary read. A piece of nonfiction is not brave or courageous because of its topic. It is brave and courageous because of its insight. “The Story” provides just that.

Poetry: “Home,” Safiya Sinclair.

Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and received her MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Catacombs, a chapbook of essays and poetry, published by Argos Books. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, Devil’s Lake, The Atlas Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a writing fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Amy Clampitt Residency Award, an Emerging Writer Fellowship from Aspen Summer Words, and an Academy of American Poets Prize; she has won the 2013 Devil’s Lake Driftless Prize in Poetry and The Journal Annual Poetry Contest in 2013. She is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California, where she is a Dornsife Doctoral Fellow.

Judge Aimee Nezhukumatathil explains her choice:

This poem’s musicality simply electrified me from the get-go. I marvel at the way such a strange and somber beast—a poem confronting diaspora—gets depicted in elemental architecture and sensuous language. This is a full-bodied poem, quietly disarming in its cool and mysterious reflections on what it means to be home.

We are thrilled to be publishing the winning entries in our Winter Issue, coming out this January. We’d like to thank all our contestants for giving us the privilege of reading their great work and our wonderful judges for lending us their time and keen eyes. Until next year!

Summer Reading: Poetry Editor Jenna Kilic

In my lazy time (it’s not spare time because I don’t feel like I ever have that), I watch too much TV. Dexter and Breaking Bad are my favorite shows. I started out the summer watching reruns of both so that everything was fresh in my head for the new seasons. Dexter is half-way through its last season now and Breaking Bad just ran the first episode of its last season. Dexter seems to receive a lot more criticism than Breaking Bad, and while I think Breaking Bad is a slightly better show, I love Dexter, not Walter. In general, the criticism of Dexter seems to be that the show and the character aren’t developing anymore, but to me, Dexter’s developing relationship with his sister Deborah is of paramount importance to the show’s finale. That’s something that has just started to work itself out in these last couple of seasons and will continue to develop until the very end. Unlike Walter, Dexter cares about his relationships, or at least he wants to care; that’s what makes him a lovable and sympathetic character. It’s hard for me to criticize a show that has successfully manipulated its audience into loving, liking, and/or sympathizing with a serial killer. We cheer for Walter, too, but he’s so manipulative and self-centered that we like him less and less each season. Still, we cheer for him because he’s television’s ultimate badass, and as the protagonist, he makes us feel like we can be him, too. Dexter is just as manipulative but not necessarily self-centered. It’s the latter characteristic that makes viewers have such different feelings toward these characters.

Orange is the New Black has become my show of the summer. I haven’t really watched a whole lot of shows with a female protagonist—probably in large part because there haven’t been that many, but also, I’m more attuned to and bothered by stereotypes of women on TV, so perhaps I subconsciously avoid them. This one, however, is different. I admire the way each show focuses on a character’s backstory, humanizing them obviously, but also playing against the criminal-in-prison stereotyped profile; they all come from different backgrounds. For nearly every character, there is a drastic juxtaposition between the person she was before prison and the person she’s become while in prison, and because the cinematography moves so fluidly back and forth from prison scene to past life, it augments those juxtapositions without feeling didactic.

The best book I’ve read this summer is the memoir Five Years of My Life by Murat Kurnaz. He spent five years in Guantanamo Bay as a completely innocent man. The United States government knew after two years of holding him that he did nothing wrong, but we wouldn’t release him, partly because Germany, where he was a legal resident, refused to take him back. Even when the US knew he was innocent, we continued to beat, torture, and interrogate him. Our government claimed that we captured him on the battlefields of Afghanistan when we actually kidnapped him in Pakistan while he was on a trip to study the Qur’an. While my respect for our government and military has waned over the past decade or so because of the use of water-boarding; the well-documented sexual and physical abuses at Abu Ghraib; the persistent use of drone strikes, one of which killed an American teenager; and because I could go on and on, this memoir is so shocking in its accounts of systemic abuses, that I feel as if I have no respect left. I can respect individuals who enter the military with altruistic motives, but I cannot respect the military as an institution.

Summer Reading: Reviews Editor Raena Shirali

[Warning: Contains spoilers.]

I have been on a serious Bates Motel kick. (For those of you who don’t know, Bates Motel is a new show on A&E, and a prequel to Hitchcock’s Psycho.) Thus far, ten episodes and one season in, we’ve seen quite a bit of both taxidermy (oh, right, Norman’s motel office in Psycho is filled with taxidermied birds and stuff) and mama issues running rampant, which I (who am a bit Psycho-obsessed) appreciate. I applaud the rarity and intensity of uncomfortably sexually charged moments between Norman and Norma, as well as the fact that taxidermy takes somewhat of a back seat (maybe not all the way in the back, just, you know, in the middle seats of a van or something) to the as-yet-unexplained, corrupt political atmosphere of White Pine Bay, Oregon. The show, set in present day, remains, politically and socially, situated outside of the current atmosphere, allowing sinister turns that a “realistic” setting would, I think, hinder. Of course, the season’s last episode—in which Norman kills his teacher, Miss Watson—sent me back on a Hitchcock spree; this summer I re-watched Psycho and Rear Window. I’ve also had “Que Sera, Sera” stuck in my head for what feels like years.

For five gloriously warm weeks, I was in Charleston, South Carolina, my hometown, crashing at friends’ places, drinking as much local beer as I could afford (I know how lame I sound), and getting entirely too tan for my own good. So when I haven’t been shamefully listening to bad pop because that’s just what driving to the beach calls for, I’ve been overdosing on Lorde’s “The Love Club,” which HuffPost has called “the perfect pop song.” I might modify that label to “the perfect indie pop song written by a sixteen year old musician from New Zealand and HOLD UP, she’s sixteen?!” “The Love Club” features simple yet affecting lyrics (“You’ll get punched for the love club” / “The other day I forgot my old address” / “The card games and ease with the bitter salt of blood”) that are delivered with an air of nostalgia, longing, and despair that I would not easily or readily attribute to so young a musician. These are lyrics and harmonies and gloriously melodic electronics that are not to be ignored. According to LastFM, her first shows in New Zealand sold out in 73 seconds. So you should probably listen to her.

Summer Reading: Associate Art Editor Janelle DolRayne

I wasn’t intending on making a list for this blog post, but once I started I realized how much I like the practice of taking inventory of my entertainment consumption. I have a terrible memory, and I usually rely on music or poems to remind me of different phases of life. A good song or poem is so useful in that way. If they do their job properly the first time around, when you return to them forgotten events and feelings appear like magic. It’s like we are storing little parts of ourselves in the music and literature we consume so we can return someday to be surprised and reminded. Within this list: I’m reading poolside in Los Angeles as my dear friend gets ready for her wedding. I am driving to Indiana to try to make a long distance relationship work. I am sitting on a porch in Alabama remembering my mentor in his hometown.

Summer listening…

Kurt Vile – Shame Chamber

Beach House – The Hours

Nina Simone – Suzanne

Phosphorescent – Ride On / Right On

Rhye – Open

Robert Glasper – Afro Blue – feat. Erykah Badu

Damien Jurado – Museum Of Flight

The Strokes – One Way Trigger

Spiritualized – Hey Jane

Blake Mills – It’ll All Work Out

Songs: Ohia – Farewell Transmission


Summer Reading…

All of Larissa Szporluk’s books of poems

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

Andrew Hudgins, The Joker

Jake Adam York, Persons Unknown

Karen Green, Bough Down


Summer Watching…

Francis Ha

Before Midnight

Despicable Me 2

Kings of Summer

The Wages of Fear

The Graduate

Announcing: Summer Reading


To kick off a new year at The Journal (as well as a new school year here at Ohio State), I’ve asked all our editors to write a short (or, in some cases, long) post about what they’ve been reading, watching, and listening to this summer.

We’re gonna kick things off with second year MFA student and associate fiction editor Kate Norris. Take it away, Kate!

This Heart